Siem Reap

Getting lost inside the labyrinth at Phsar Chas (Old Market)... ...window-shopping or bargaining is a lot of fun here

Getting lost inside the labyrinth at Phsar Chas (Old Market)… …window-shopping or bargaining is a lot of fun here

Dates visited: December 21, 2014 – December 24, 2014

My entry into Cambodia and exit out of Cambodia from Siem Reap International Airport was memorable but for the wrong reasons! On both occasions, the immigration officers while stamping my passport asked me for a tip! “Do you have any US dollars for me?” is what one officer asked on my way in and “I help you and you help me,” is what the officer said to me on my way out… …both occasions, I just said no and walked away after getting the passport stamped. I felt sorry (for the immigration officer) when I entered Cambodia but disgusted (at the immigration officers) when I exited since I did not encounter any such corruption or dishonesty during my stay in Cambodia. Such idiots exist in all parts of the world (though I have never experienced this at the port of entry/exit in any of the 20+ countries I have visited prior to coming here), but thankfully, I have far better memories of the people and places I visited in Cambodia.

Siem Reap is a base city to see Angkor Wat and the rest of the temples, but it has developed into having its own character. We just loved Phsar Chas (Old Market) which is a market operating since the French colonization days. This hectic, lively and busy area is the heart of Siem Reap, and makes for a great spot for people watching as it is frequented by locals as well as tourists. This place has enough activity to keep you engaged for hours and hours—silver goods, food carts, jewelry, grocery stores, silk products, cafes, pharmacies, restaurants, elephant pants shops (comfy baggy pants with elephant designs worn by tourists throughout Southeast Asia), wood carvings, pubs and more!

But what you cannot miss in the Old Market area are the abundant massage parlors with their eye-popping rates… …$2 for a 15-30 mins foot massage! I had been a massage virgin until now just because I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a total stranger touching me (yes, yes, after years of trying to convince me to go for a massage in the US, even Prachi concluded that I have issues). But after a 11-hour temple tour (starting with the sunrise view over Angkor Wat), my body literally dragged me to a massage parlor and treated itself to a Khmer body massage. Prachi and I signed up for the couples’ session (I needed a morale boost) but as soon as the new-age music started and the massage lady climbed on me to do her magic, I was in Angkor heaven all by myself! By the end of 60 mins and a well-spent $10, my masseuse had introduced me to muscles I never knew existed! And from then onwards, I was a massage pro, never giving up an opportunity to get at least a foot massage until the last day of my Southeast Asia vacation.

One of Rohan’s highlights from the trip was the pottery class he did at Khmer Ceramic & Fine Arts Centre. He was excited to get hands-on experience behind the potter’s wheel—starting with a ball of clay and ending with a glazed pot—the vase and bowl are his favorite souvenirs from the trip.

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